Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Post-Election, Schools and Healthcare Providers Rally Around New Americans

Posted By on Wed, Nov 30, 2016 at 9:53 AM

  • Integrated Arts Academy principal Bobby Riley
Like millions of Americans across the nation, Bobby Riley stayed up to watch the results of the presidential election. At about 2:30 a.m on November 9, Riley, the principal of Integrated Arts Academy in Burlington’s Old North End, wrote an email to his staff.

“If the election results follow the current trajectory, we may very well have woken up with Donald J. Trump as our President-Elect this morning. The immediate implications may be profound for many of our students and families," Riley wrote. "So let us proceed with attentiveness and understanding for any anxiety and concerns that may arise.”

During the campaign, students had expressed their fears to him and his staff over Trump’s statements about registering Muslims and deporting illegal immigrants, Riley told Kids VT. Muslim and immigrant students were afraid they would not be able to remain in the U.S. if Trump became president. In turn, their friends expressed concern for their newcomer classmates and neighbors. IAA’s student population is arguably the most diverse in the state, said Riley. Forty percent of its students come from households whose first language is not English. An overwhelming majority of these families were also refugees. That's a rarity in Vermont, a state with a largely homogenous population that, according to the latest census data, is approximately 94 percent white.

Students in the diverse Winooski School District — from kindergarteners to high schoolers —expressed the same fears leading up to the election, said Kirsten Kollgaard, director of English Language Learners and Curriculum.

A significant number of students from the district come from refugee backgrounds, she said. Some were fearful of getting deported. And U.S-born students were worried that their New American friends would face deportation, said Kollgaard.

“Children pick up more than we think they do,” Kollgaard noted.

The non-stop news cycle, as well as easy access to the Internet, meant that students were inundated with election-related information, according to Riley and Kollgaard. Although schools are non-political and non-partisan, they can serve as “community centers for dialogues,” said Riley, where people should “accept multiple perspectives.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders at Integrated Arts Academy
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders at Integrated Arts Academy
The day after the election, Riley offered his school as the venue for a community potluck gathering. Sen. Bernie Sanders made a short appearance and he praised IAA for being a “great school in a very diverse community.”

Now weeks after the election, Kollgaard said the community is “still concerned” but “seemed to be relaxing.” She attributed this partly to the work that home-school liaisons — cultural brokers between the Winooski school district and New American parents — have done to reduce fears among parents. They remind parents that the U.S. is a country of laws as well as checks and balances, and that is not going to change overnight. Kollgaard said she’s been following the news very closely to keep abreast of conversations relating to immigration. Some parents expressed worry that the Affordable Care Act would be repealed and leave them vulnerable, noted Kollgaard.

Miriam Ehtesham-Cating, ELL coordinator for the Burlington School District, said her staff — known in the district as multi-lingual liaisons — have also reached out to New American parents. Ehtesham-Cating said she shared educational tools (including posts from the website Teaching Tolerance) which reinforce the values of diversity and respect, with several organizations that serve the refugee and immigrant populations. Although she hasn’t personally heard reports of harassment and bullying at schools, she has reminded teachers to remain vigilant.

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Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Home Cookin': Apple Butter Pie

Posted By on Tue, Nov 22, 2016 at 7:00 AM

  • Astrid Lague
Every year, my sister makes her amazing version of apple butter. First, she asks the folks at Hackett's Orchard in South Hero to put together a special blend of apples for her. (I'm not sure what the mix is, but I think it might be magical.) Then, she turns the fruit into something spreadable and delicious.

Apple butter is really just a thicker version of applesauce. You don't even need added sugar because the natural sugars in the apples caramelize, making the apple butter dark and sweet, without being cloying. You can cook the apples down in a crockpot, which makes your house smell wonderful. My sister cans hers and presents a jar to everyone in our family for the holidays.

A few years ago, I decided I wanted to showcase the apple butter in a pie. In my family, we all love pumpkin pie, so why couldn't I make the same kind of pie using my sister's wonderful apple butter? And so, Apple Butter Pie was born. The dessert, with creamy custard-like filling brimming with apple-cinnamon flavor, has become a family favorite.

If you don't have homemade apple butter on hand, you can substitute with a store-bought variety. Look for one with no sugar added. Vermont-based Cold Hollow Cider Mill or Sidehill Farm make tasty versions.

This pie is ridiculously easy to make.  All you have to do is whisk together the filling, pour it in the pie crust, top with a sprinkling of cinnamon, then bake. For a fancy touch, create a decorative crust using leaf-shaped cookie cutters. This pie is the perfect way to bring a Vermonty vibe to your Thanksgiving table — though it's delicious any time of year.

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Monday, November 21, 2016

Starting Sooner: Supporting Healthy Gender Development in Preschool

Posted By on Mon, Nov 21, 2016 at 2:35 PM

  • Jess Wisloski
A friend of mine from my days in Brooklyn came to visit recently. My daughter, who’s 3 and a half, had met her twice before when she stayed with us, but asked me this time, “Is Yoga (our nickname for my friend) a boy or a girl?”

The question excited me, maybe because I had an answer. (That’s increasingly rare lately.) There’s nothing specific that would make my daughter think Yoga wasn't a woman, but her question was a sign that she may have had some discussions in her preschool class about gender identity.

“Yoga is a woman. There are things that make her a woman on the outside, like her body parts, and also it’s how she feels on the inside," I told my daughter. "I have known her for a long time, and I know that she feels like a woman on the inside.”

“Is the baby a boy or a girl?” she asked me about Yoga’s son, who is 1. “We call him a boy right now because he has the body parts that we think make him a boy,” I said. “We say ‘he’ because it’s easy for us to do that. But the baby can’t talk yet. We might find out later that he’s not a boy. He may say he feels like a girl,” I said. “Then we’ll know that the baby is a girl.”

Before I was done patting myself on the back, she began talking about the Nemo-esque fish on her puzzle. But the subject is one I’ve been thinking about, as gender issues seems to be everywhere, from preschool recess games to the presidential election.

The night we learned Donald Trump was to be our next president, a group of 30 parents and educators gathered in the basement of Annette’s Preschool in Hinesburg for a workshop entitled  “Supporting Healthy Gender Development in Preschool.” It was a facilitated panel discussion on how to support children and raise awareness — while broadening the acceptance of the varied ways kids express gender and explore identity at a very young age.

“It’s a good moment to dig deep and find community and move forward,” said moderator Dana Kaplan, director of education at Outright Vermont. Seven panelists spoke: two parents of transgender girls, three teachers, a social worker and a doctor from the University of Vermont Children’s Hospital’s Transgender Youth Program. Kids under the age of 12 are “the fastest-growing area of the work we do [at Outright Vermont] ,” Kaplan said.

Transgender children might feel they aren’t being heard or validated when talking to adults about their gender identity, but will be “insistent, persistent and consistent,” the parent speakers said. Several noted how unconscious classroom practices, like “all the girls” lining up, or a seating arrangement that’s "girl-boy, girl-boy" means youngsters must identify early, despite being unsure about how an assigned gender feels to them. Caregivers and teachers may be the first to notice a child is trying to share their identity, teachers said, and parents are sometimes slower to see it.

Dr. Jamie Mehringer, chief pediatric resident at UVM College of Medicine, said he saw many institutions bringing gender into children’s lives when it is irrelevant. “Gender segregating bathrooms in a preschool, separating kindergarteners onto a boys' or girls' soccer team… we’re forcing gender onto situations where it’s not really that useful.” Breaking down those barriers was an essential step, he explained.

A number of handouts, including tips on being an ally and becoming more gender inclusive, and a few picture books, including I Am Jazz, Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress and My Princess Boy, were spread on a table for participants to peruse. And Outright Vermont noted they held support groups for trans and gender-creative children.

I'm already starting to see my daughter's friends shift to include more girls than boys. As she gets older, the gender-related issues she deals with will undoubtedly become more complex. The workshop made me more aware of the importance of keeping an open mind when it comes to gender identity, so that I don't make assumptions or take actions that might inadvertently harm my daughter or her friends.

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Thursday, November 10, 2016

Beautiful Bounty: A Craft Fair Roundup

Posted By on Thu, Nov 10, 2016 at 9:31 AM

Orchard Valley Holiday Market
  • Orchard Valley Holiday Market
’Tis the giving season, and Vermont artisans offer an impressive array of gift options, from hand-turned wooden toys to woven scarves. As a former farmers market vendor, I visit holiday fairs every year for their high-quality goods — but also to chat with the crafters. The folks selling their wares are usually happy to talk to customers about the materials they use and their crafting process. Whether you’re looking for hand-knit mittens, a special necklace or just something one-of-a-kind, chances are you’ll find it at one of these fairs. Admission is free unless otherwise noted.

Craft Vermont hosts their annual juried show, with a selection of fine art, jewelry, wood crafts and body-care products. Friday, November 18, 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; Saturday, November 19, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sunday, November 20, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., at the Sheraton Conference Center in Burlington; $8 for a 3-day pass; free for children under 12. Bring a non-perishable item for the food shelf. Info, 872-8600.

Local artisans and specialty food producers display handcrafted gifts, including pottery, scarves, stained glass, maple syrup and chocolates at the Chandler Holiday Artisans Market. Friday, November 18, 5-7 p.m.; Saturdays, November 19-December 17, 9 a.m.-3 p.m.; Sundays, November 20-December 18, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.; Wednesdays, November 23-December 14, 5-7 p.m.; Thursdays and Fridays, November 25-December 16, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.; and Monday, December 19-Wednesday, December 21, 9 a.m.-3 pm, at the Chandler Center for the Arts in Randolph. Info, 728-6464.

The Capital City Thanksgiving Farmers Market offers fresh greens, local produce and meat, artisan cheese, honey and maple syrup, wool and other crafts, along with festive music and lunch fare. Saturday, November 19, 10 a.m.-2 pm., at Montpelier High School in Montpelier. Info, 223-2958.

Pottery, jewelry, yarn creations and more grace the tables at the Pittsford Craft Show. Saturday, November 19, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. at Lothrop Elementary School in Pittsford. Info, 483-6351.

The Waldorf-inspired Orchard Valley Holiday Market boasts body-care products, fine crafts, children’s books and hand-made gifts, with savory soup and healthy snacks for sustenance. Saturday, November 19, 10:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m., at the Vermont College of Fine Arts in Montpelier. Info, 456-7400.

The Women's Festival of Crafts features more than 80 female artisans selling an array of gift items, including cards, pottery, jewelry, origami and glass. Saturday, November 26, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sunday, November 27, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., at the Burlington Town Center on Church St. in Burlington.

Local crafters come out to showcase their wares at the Swanton Arts Council Craft Fair, while shoppers savor lunch and a bake sale. Saturday, November 26, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. at the Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Swanton. Info, 868-6258.

Locavore lovers return to the Middlebury Farmers Holiday Market for regional produce, handmade crafts, lively music and lunch fare. Saturday, December 3, 9:30 a.m.-2 p.m., at Mary Hogan Elementary School in Middlebury. Info,

The Lake Champlain Waldorf School Holiday Fair features handcrafted gifts and children’s activities, including candle dipping, African drumming and a visit to the Snow Queen’s cave. Free admission; Small fee for some activities. Saturday, December 3, 10 a.m.-3 p.m., at the Lake Champlain Waldorf School in Shelburne. Info, 985-2827.

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Monday, October 24, 2016

Home Cookin': Pistachio Baklava with Orange Blossom Syrup

Posted By on Mon, Oct 24, 2016 at 9:21 PM

  • Astrid Lague
  • Baklava
In fifth grade, my class did a social studies unit on Greece, which culminated with a group meal. For dessert, we made baklava. Its rich and sweet layers of flaky phyllo dough, butter, honey, and nuts made an impact on me — and my taste buds.

I didn't make the decadent delicacy again until a couple of years ago, when my mother requested a Middle Eastern birthday dinner. My sister and I pored through our cookbooks, finding all sorts of delicious things to make. For dessert, I chose baklava.

For that meal, I put a few twists on the dish. My sister and mother are not overly fond of walnuts, the traditional nutty filling for baklava.  Pistachios, though?  That's another matter. And instead of honey syrup, I used a secret weapon — orange blossom syrup, made with sugar and orange blossom water, which you can find on Amazon or at a Middle Eastern market. The ingredient adds a floral sweetness that's really incredible.

For this recipe, I used chopped pistachios and pecans, as the mixture is more affordable than just pistachios. Really, you can try any combination of nuts — walnuts, of course, would be wonderful, and hazelnuts would work, too. Don't be scared to play around!

The real magic of baklava happens when you pour the warm syrup over the baked layers of phyllo and nuts. It sizzles in the most satisfactory way as the syrup works its way into all of the crevices of the phyllo. The end product is a sticky, sweet confection that is undeniably delicious. Kids love it, adults love it, and the whole process is a whole lot easier than you'd think. This is one to try at home, if for no other reason than that magic sizzle.

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Monday, October 17, 2016

Home Cookin': Easy Spanikopita Rolls

Posted By on Mon, Oct 17, 2016 at 11:17 AM

Finished spanikopita rolls - ASTRID LAGUE
  • Astrid Lague
  • Finished spanikopita rolls
Not everyone grows up around a wide array of international foods. My husband, Chris, was raised in a mainly meat-and-potatoes household. He barely ate vegetables when we started dating as teenagers.  

Consequently, he wasn't prepared for the onslaught of flavors he encountered at my family's dinner table. He was okay with peppers and onions — and, occasionally, carrots and peas — but, beyond that, he found eating at my house a bit daunting.

Luckily, he liked me, so he stuck around.

After we had been dating six months, I left to spend my junior year in Sweden, where I lived with a cousin. This was before the golden age of email and Skype but, amazingly, he still stuck around. The next year, we traveled to Sweden together so I could show him the country. 

And here begins the story of how my husband came to appreciate spinach. The family we were staying with in Stockholm served spinach.  So did the family we were staying with in another town. What did we eat on the airplane ride home?  You guessed it — spinach.

During our week in Sweden, I think we were served spinach at least five times.  By the end of the trip, Chris decided that he didn't mind the leafy green after all.

Years later, I found out that my mother had secretly told the Swedes to serve us as much spinach as possible, and that she then told Chris that it was very important to try everything he was offered, lest he be seen as incredibly impolite.

I don't think she had any sway with the airline, but I could be wrong.

Now, many years later, spinach is one of my husband's favorite vegetables, and spanikopita is one of his favorite ways to eat it.

In this Greek dish, flaky phyllo dough surrounds a savory filling of spinach and briny feta cheese. It's a perennial favorite in our household. Even better? Our kids love to help make it.

You can make spanikopita as a traditional pie, or in little triangle shapes, but my favorite preparation is spanikopita rolls, similar to egg rolls. Instead of using copious amounts of butter to crisp up each layer of phyllo, we use a butter-flavored cooking spray. (You can use butter if you like. It just takes a bit more time because you have to brush it on to each sheet of phyllo.)

Most markets stock frozen phyllo dough. If you have extra spanikopita rolls, just freeze them, then let them thaw a bit before baking (just add a couple of minutes to the cooking time). Or bake them all at once, and keep any extras in the refrigerator for a couple of days. Pro tip: They make a great addition to school lunches.

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Tuesday, October 4, 2016

No Charges in Waterbury Daycare Drowning

Posted By and on Tue, Oct 4, 2016 at 11:17 AM

  • Courtesy of Reava Burnor
  • Parker Berry
Criminal charges will not be filed in connection to the drowning death of a 3-year-old boy at a Waterbury daycare facility in February, Washington County State's Attorney Scott Williams announced Monday.

Parker Berry, of Hyde Park, wandered away from Elephant in the Field daycare center and was found unconscious in a nearby brook. The boy died two days later.

The Department of Children and Family Services revoked Elephant in the Field's daycare license after the incident.

Williams said that actions already taken against the daycare will "remove future risk to public safety."

"I have determined that none of the actions or inactions of adults involved with this terribly sad incident qualify as demonstrating a criminal mental state, including criminal recklessness or negligence," Williams said in a prepared statement.

Earlier this year, Williams said that criminal charges were not warranted against a para-educator tasked with caring for Parker.

Williams said that he told the boy's parents about his decision and "they have expressed their satisfaction with the process and decision making."

Kids VT wrote about the home-based daycare program, located on a 42-acre farm, in 2014. 

A version of this post originally appeared in Seven Days.

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Thursday, September 29, 2016

Get Out: Backpacking with Kids

Posted By on Thu, Sep 29, 2016 at 10:11 AM

Rheia and Elise on a backpacking trip - TRISTAN VON DUNTZ
  • Tristan von Duntz
  • Rheia and Elise on a backpacking trip
I spent Labor Day weekend laboring under the weight of the heaviest backpack I've ever carried. It was well worth the effort, though, to bring my 2-year-old daughter, Elise, on her first backpacking trip. 

My partner, Tristan, and I hatched the plan on Friday before the long weekend, along with our friend, Dan, who brought his 8-year-old daughter, Rheia, on the trip. That Sunday, Tristan and I packed gear for two people into one pack — including our tent, camp stove, cooking pot and utensils, water filtration system, food and clothes. I planned to carry the pack, and Tristan would carry Elise in our Osprey Poco carrier, which has just enough storage for him to also carry a sleeping bag, sleeping pad and water. 
We set out for Smugglers' Notch (Route 108) in Stowe, where we parked our cars for the night. From there we hiked the Sterling Pond Trail, a steep one-mile trail that includes stone steps and rock scrambles. We kept the hike interesting for Elise with toys that she could hold and play with. Rheia seemed happy hiking, and we took breaks for snacks and to point out the view of the valley below. It's always nice when you're climbing a steep trail to look back at how far you've come!

Elise in the hiking carrier - TRISTAN VON DUNTZ
  • Tristan von Duntz
  • Elise in the hiking carrier
Eventually, we reached Sterling Pond, a beautiful alpine body of water. The shoreline was crowded with weekend visitors, but we managed to find a quiet spot  to set our packs down. We all gave our legs a break after the steep climb and I took a refreshing, albeit cold, swim with our dog, Odin. 

After our break, we continued 2.5 miles north on the Long Trail to our campsite. On the way, we stopped to have a quick trailside lunch of summer sausage, smoked gouda, and trail mix. 

The trail led to the summit of Madonna Mountain — part of Smugglers' Notch Resort and our resting place for the night. The mountain summit is cleared for ski trails, so there are long-range views in every direction. After dropping our packs and taking in shimmering Lake Champlain and the dramatic rocky profile of Mt. Mansfield, we hiked a little further north on the Long Trail, without our packs. We sat down trailside and watched as Rheia helped Elise climb rocks and explore the thick forest of moss that lined the sides of the trail. 

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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Summer Salaries: A Dramatic Role

Posted By on Wed, Aug 31, 2016 at 11:34 AM

Vera Escaja-Heiss - ANDIE PINGA
  • Andie Pinga
  • Vera Escaja-Heiss
After starring in multiple school plays, 14-year-old Vera Escaja-Heiss found a summer internship that alined with her acting aspirations. At the Vermont Shakespeare Company, Vera worked backstage during their summer production of Julius Caesar. Her responsibilities as part of the running crew included handling props, moving the entire set to from location to location and helping to create props and costumes. Vera and her fellow interns also attended free classes on acting and rehearsed and performed their own play, a modern take on Macbeth. In that production, Vera had three roles: Fleance, the first witch and the doctor. Her shining moment? Performing an original rap foreshadowing future events, while in character as the witch. We spoke to the South Burlington teen about her job last month.

Kids VT: How many interns does the Vermont Shakespeare Company take on?
Vera Escaja-Heiss: I believe there are 12 interns. The ages range from 14 to 22, me being the youngest. I’m the only one in high school. But it’s fun because everyone’s really great and I’m friends with people who are eight years older than me.

KVT: What was the application process like?
VEH: [I needed] to write something about why I wanted to learn about Shakespeare and then I handed in my resume. Eventually, you will go through a phone interview where one of the producers and managers will ask you more questions about yourself, and an audition where you had to make a costume and prepare a monologue. I performed a Disney-like monologue in a “kid” costume, which was just a t-shirt and Converse.

KVT: Are you getting paid?
VEH: I’m not getting paid actual money, but the great thing is that we have these experienced teachers who are give us all these wonderful classes as a form of payment. We learn about stuff like movement, stage combat and voice. We have a class called “Preparing for the Profession,” where they tell you about what life [as an actor] is like and how to actually get into the business. These classes are mostly made for older people as they’re transitioning into actually becoming actors, but it’s awesome.

KVT: How many hours did you work?
VEH: During show weeks, we work 10 to 12 hours. We arrive before the actors and leave after the actors.

KVT: Do you hope to become an actress?
VEH: I really love acting, but I also want to go on a safe path because it’s such a risky business. The thing is, during the classes, they’ve talked about how rent is so expensive. So I’m planning on probably double majoring. [But at South Burlington High School], I’m going to try out for Sister Act, the musical this year.

KVT: What is your advice for other teens looking for jobs?
VEH: I think that a lot of people at this age have so many opportunities, but they’re not really aware of them. Some jobs may be asking for more adult-aged workers. If you put yourself in the mindset of being hardworking, and if you’re driven, then it doesn’t really matter that you’re working at a young age. I’m a 14-year-old working with 22-year-olds. Just strive for it.

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Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Summer Salaries: Fun-Lovin' Counselor

Posted By on Wed, Aug 17, 2016 at 10:56 AM

Reilly Faith
  • Reilly Faith
After spending her first year of college under the Texan sun, 19-year-old Reilly Faith got a job this summer with the “little kiddos” at Summer Fun University, a camp program run by Smugglers' Notch. In her role as a counselor, Reilly stays busy organizing arts and crafts, nature walks, and singing and dancing performances. The Morrisville native, who studies dance at Texas Christian University, has some simple advice for summer job seekers. "Your summer break is so short," she says, so "try to find something you're going to enjoy."

Kids VT: Why did you choose this job?
Reilly Faith: I really enjoy working with kids. The best part is just getting to connect with all the little kiddos because they’re so cute and it’s just so fun to be with them and bring a smile to their face.

KVT: What kind of activities do you organize at the camp?
RF: I work with the 7- to 10-year-olds. There’s a nature and hiking group, and a sound and stage group [where] they do dancing, singing, little skits and then we put up a performance. There’s also an adventuring games group, which is just like gym-class games. I wish I’d gone [to camp there], honestly.

KVT: How much do you earn — and do you plan to save or spend your money?
RF: It is $10 an hour; I am spending it on school expenses. Most of it’s going towards my sorority dues. I work 8:30 to 4:30 everyday. Wednesday nights, I work the overnight which is pretty much 24 hours of consecutive work, but it’s fun.

KVT: What's you’re least favorite part of the job?
RF: My least favorite part is discipline. I still feel like I’m a kid, so it’s weird for me to be their boss.

KVT: Do you think these skills will help you later in life?
RF: Yes, absolutely. I would say I’ve always been really quiet and timid, but when you’re trying to get [the attention of] a group of 25 little 7-year-olds, you have no choice but to be loud and assertive. There’s also a lot of creativity. Say, when [there is thunder] and all the [planned] activities for the day were supposed to be outside, you have to think of games on the spot and projects to do to keep them entertained.

KVT: Any funny stories?
RF: I go to college in Texas, and Texas has a lot of state pride. Everything has the shape of [the state] or the state flag on it, and I think it’s really cool. There was a little boy that I had a few weeks ago who was from Texas. Over the Fourth of July weekend, we went to the arts studio and we told [the group] to make an American flag out of whatever materials they could find. And they all made these adorable little American flags, except the Texas kid. He made a little Texas flag.
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    Camp Common Ground

    Camp Common Ground

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    Founded in 1994, Camp Common Ground is an inter-generational family camp designed to provide families with a healthy and happy bonding experience while weaving in elements of nature education, arts, music, wellness, sports, and fun! Camp Common Ground prides itself on welcoming all definitions of "family" and cultivating a sense…(more)

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